I can only imagine it looked like a scene out of a Charles Dickens novel. A young street urchin caught in the winter air, peering eagerly at a warm meal behind the storefront’s window, society’s elite inside looking out at him as they devour tacos. Well, if Dickens lived in today’s time that’s how the story would play out. The street urchin would be played by Steven Bradley, guitarist and programmer for metal band Iwrestledabearonce. And those high society-types replaced by singer Krysta Cameron, guitarist John Ganey, drummer Mike Montgomery and bassist Mike Martin. And, by the end of the story, they would be giving Bradley strange looks through the window as he took time to speak with me about the past, present and future of IWABO.
Before that night’s show in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Bradley stood outside what he jokingly called “the worst burrito place in the world” to order his dinner, which was taking longer than normal. Already having been delayed about two hours arriving to the venue due to traffic, another roadblock in the schedule didn’t seem to bother him. He maintained a “come what may” attitude—a trait that comes in handy when you find yourself away from family during the holidays.
I asked what they had in mind for Thanksgiving. But the real tragedy came not from the thought of giving thanks over a fast food restaurant’s table, but during a certain holiday a month earlier. This year’s Halloween was instead spent at a repair shop for the members of IWABO. The day was only saved from being “the saddest Halloween ever” when they dressed up as Slipknot that night and hit up the town for a bit.
Iwrestledabearonce have plenty that they can be thankful for. A new residence, new album, long touring schedule, and they’ve even made their mark on the fashion world. Between coughs and sniffling, Bradley felt the need to excuse himself. “We live in California, so this is cold. It’s like the cold air gave me an instant cold.”
Having played at this venue a handful of times before, Bradley claimed they knew the area well. But there is always room for surprises, in particular there was one that caught his attention and made him burst out laughing. “Some old dude is blasting Skrillex in his car.” Still confused, I was able to discern that Bradley was a fan of Skrillex, but my hopes for a future collaboration were dashed. “We don’t have the money for him (laughs), he’s doing work for Korn. We’ve only had friends who are involved in this kind of music do remixes for us.”
IWABO has had dubstep remixes done of tracks off their first full-length album, but don’t expect to find them planning to release any remixes in the near future. There was a bit of a sigh and reluctance in Bradley’s train of thought when commenting on the idea of creating remixes for tracks from their most recent release, Ruining It For Everybody. “It feels like so many other people are doing it, so we’re kind of over it.”
Something they’re not over is a heavy tour schedule. After doing a full run on this summer’s All Stars Tour, they were soon back on the road with the Monster Energy Outbreak Tour, before quickly taking up a support slot for As I Lay Dying, with only a few weeks of rest before an overseas run with We Came As Romans. Even when stuck in traffic on the road, downtime is always used constructively when a group is trying to keep their sanity. “We make a lot of jokes and that’s where our song titles come from. They’re a collection of inside jokes.”
Helping matters on the road is being around good people. For both the Monster Energy Outbreak and As I Lay Dying tours, they are sharing the stage with Of Mice And Men, one of the many bands they’ve befriended along the way. “Some bands you connect with, some you become friends with and others you just never really talk to on the tour.”
For the present their focus is on an endless tour cycle with no inkling of when a new album might be released. Ruining It For Everybody came out this past summer and has been seeing good reviews and collecting new fans in its path. “It’s been great. Some say they hated our last album, but really liked this one.” The overall quick description Bradley had for the album was that it was more organized than they’ve been in the past. Something that’s also been tweaked over the years is how they approach the stage—at least for him. “I use to be a lot crazier in the past, but slowed down in my old age.” If by slowing down he means running around the stage and whipping his guitar along with the music, then it’s hard to imagine what else he had up his sleeve in his younger days.
It led also to a thought on the current scene. “Some bands are, like, choreographed on stage and I don’t understand why bands aren’t going apeshit at every performance. It’s like they seem bored or are unhappy with their job.” For him, it’s sometimes hard to believe making music and performing is what he gets to do for work and can’t believe others in his position aren’t as excited. This also applies to a side-project of his that he’s been looking to put in motion for quite a bit now.
Bradley is also looking to make his mark on the future by helping kids in school do what he feels so fortunate to be doing for a living. With his clothing line, Let’s Make Mistakes, a portion of proceeds will be donated towards VH1’s Save The Music foundation. “When I was in school, the music program was bad. It was like they had two wooden blocks and were like ‘Here you go, but you have to share.’” He wants to be able to see that there are funds being given to programs that encourage kids to create, especially music.
The meaning behind the clothing line’s name comes from one of his life’s philosophies. “Obviously you have to make mistakes to learn. Without mistakes, I wouldn’t be where I am.” He reflected on others that are like him, college graduate, trying to figure out where to take their lives. But instead of being like others that sit around wishing that they could have done something, afraid of the negatives, he went for it, not afraid of failing.
For fans that would like to have more of Bradley’s wisdom on their own life’s mysteries or just to say hi, he was eager to confirm he’s the man behind the band’s Facebook and Twitter account. With a hand in almost everything, it’ll be interesting to see what else Bradley will be asking for more of. Perhaps just a burrito will do for now.
Iwrestledabearonce will perform at The Trocadero in Philly on Dec. 1 and Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on Dec. 2. For more information, go to facebook.com/iwrestledabearonce.